By Wee Rae
Third-year School of Social Sciences (SSS) student Tan Ren Kiat was only in his second year of university when he started applying for internships.“I thought it would be good to get a head start,” said the 24-year-old.
He managed to clinch a position as a research assistant with the Ministry of Home Affairs during his summer break, thinking that research was an area he would be interested in.
But after his 10-week stint, during which he did qualitative research on case studies regarding team resilience for the Singapore Police Force under the Police Psychological Services division, Tan realised that the job was not for him.
Tan then decided to approach the NTU Career & Attachment Office (CAO) for advice on the types of jobs that would suit his personality.
“I was considering a lot of options and wanted a second opinion on what would be a good fit for me,” he said.
After attending group coaching sessions and one-to-one consultations with SSS career coach Kee May Lee, Tan realised that he preferred working in a place that allowed him to interact with people. He then began looking for internships that would allow him to do so.
Career Advising & Coaching service
The Career Advising & Coaching service provided by CAO addresses career, resume and interview concerns that students may have. They are offered to both individuals and groups, and are conducted by CAO’s career coaches.
On what the sessions entail, Ms Kee said: “The one-to-one sessions are more personalised and targeted because we can spend more time understanding the individual’s needs and I have time to probe deeper (to find out more about the student).”
The group sessions, normally capped at eight to nine people, are held workshop-style. Students are equipped with knowledge on areas like how to tackle common interview questions.
Though most students are aware of this service due to the frequent emails sent out by the office, according to Ms Rachel Wang, a career coach for the School of Biological Sciences, many students only approach CAO for help in their final year. But ideally, students should start attending these sessions as early as possible.
70 per cent of students who have signed up for the Career Advising & Coaching service are fourth-year students, while third-year and first to second-year students make up only 20 and 10 per cent respectively.
While career coaches provide general help, students who have an industry in mind can turn to the career consultants for more industry-specific advice.
“The coaches are like the GPs (general practitioners). When you’re not feeling well, you go to the GP first, not the specialist. Your GP will do the necessary checkup and then do the referral. Our consultants are like the specialists,” said Ms Wang.
For example, Renaissance Engineering Programme alumnus Xu Shutao was keen on working in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector. Mr Xu, who specialised in Chemical Engineering, then approached ICT career consultant See Wai Yen while he was still studying in NTU.
Ms See provided him with a list of companies to consider, and also went beyond her call of duty.
“She offered to send my resume to some of the companies directly, securing me the first round of interviews,” said Mr Xu, 26, who graduated last year. Mr Xu started work as a software engineer at software firm BitTitan after graduation.
New initiatives by CAO
Apart from advising students on how to go about choosing their careers, the career consultants also come up with ideas on how to showcase new job opportunities to the school population.
This academic year, Ms See invited industry experts in areas such as artificial intelligence and blockchain to give talks and conduct workshops for NTU students.
Such sessions happen almost weekly and take place in different formats, depending on the company conducting it.
While some companies may choose to only conduct recruitment talks, others may hold informative sessions to share industry knowledge and introduce their respective companies to students.
One of the job search challenges faced by students is that they do not understand themselves enough.
Hence, CAO’s career coaches introduced the Self-AssessWORKOUT session to address this concern.
During the sessions, Knowdell Card Sorts are used to help participants identify their career values, motivations, skills and occupational interests.
Through this session, students will get to understand how such factors affect their career decisions and know which jobs are more suitable for them.
Start early, and be bold
Ms Melissa Ng, career consultant for consumer business, media and marketing, and logistics and transportation, advised students to start thinking early about the type of jobs they want to have in the future.
She said many students often wait till their final year before starting their research on suitable jobs and as a result, may become very anxious and worried due to the time constraint.
“If you start it right and early, by the time you get involved with many more (career related) events, by the time you reach your penultimate year, you will definitely have a clearer idea of what you want to do,” she added.
On what are some important attributes to have when looking for a job, Mrs Chong Mei Eng, deputy director of CAO, said: “You must be willing to take up challenges and just go for it. A lot of it (applying for a job) is about taking one big step after another. You need to be bold.”